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    Friday, August 19, 2022

    Candidates for 139th House District distinguish their resumes and position on issues

    Candidates for the Connecticut House of Representatives 139th District seat, incumbent Democrat Kevin Ryan, left, and Republican challenger Joseph Mark C. Taraya, take questions during The Day's lunch with the candidates forum at The Day's office in New London on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. (Tim Cook/The Day)

    One candidate for the 139th state House District has held the seat for 12 terms, and the other has never run for office and has lived in the district for less than a year.

    Yet the two men shared often similar visions for the state and the district at a lunchtime forum at the Day’s offices Tuesday, occasionally diverging along party lines but often framing their race as a matchup between political experience and new blood.

    State Rep. Kevin Ryan, a Democrat, and Joseph C. Mark Taraya, a Republican and veteran who had served as a Navy quality assurance technician before being medically discharged in May, answered questions on local and state issues for more than an hour Tuesday, covering their opinions on education funding, marijuana and the 2016 presidential election.

    They also addressed the more than two decades Ryan has held the seat in Hartford for the 139th District, which includes Bozrah and parts of Montville and Norwich.

    “I think (my) experience is going to be very helpful as we go through these problems,” Ryan said. “We know what we’ve done in the past that hasn’t worked well, and what we have to do that’s new, so we don’t ... repeat the same mistakes.”

    But Taraya said people he has talked to while campaigning for the seat have expressed a desire for “new blood” in the legislature. “They have this kind of resentment, that there needs to be ... a new perspective. For a full 24 years, they see a slow digression of the current state of our state,” he said.

    “It’s admirable to have a 24-year career ... in anything,” he added. “I don’t belittle the fact that you’ve made a career here and in Hartford. I’d just like to have a different voice.”

    Among other things, Taraya said he would use his voice to say that higher taxes are not a solution to the state’s fiscal crisis.

    “I’ll take the pledge,” he said. “Raising taxes is not the answer.”

    Instead, Taraya said, the legislature should find excess in the state budget to cut, though he didn’t name a specific program that should be reconsidered.

    “To go through line by line, and make everything more effective — that’s what we have to do as legislators,” he said.

    House members also can take votes that encourage more business investment in Connecticut, he said.

    “It’s keeping our businesses and making sure we have taxpayers in our state.”

    Ryan agreed that new taxes alone won’t solve the state’s problems.

    “In the past we’ve tried raising taxes — we did that twice. It didn’t end up putting it in a place where we wanted to be,” he said.

    Ryan didn’t rule out higher taxes in the future, though he focused on cuts the legislature made while it developed the budget and said he would promote investment in the state’s economy, state pension reform and looking to state workers to suggest ways to make spending more efficient.

    “They see things on the day-to-day level that the rest of us don’t see,” he said.

    The candidates agreed that the legislature should wait until the judicial system resolves a Hartford Superior Court judge’s decision that Connecticut’s education funding system is not equitable or adequate before taking action to try to reform it.

    They agreed that expanding access to treatment for addiction is key to addressing the opioid epidemic affecting people across Connecticut and New England.

    Taraya also suggested addressing the supply side of the drug trade by educating traffickers and dealers in legal ways to make a living and showing them the detrimental effects that heroin has caused in Connecticut.

    Ryan said the state government’s effort to expand access to the overdose-reversal drug Narcan and limiting the availability of prescription opioid pain medications have made a dent in the crisis.

    Asked whether they will be voting for their political party’s nominee for president, the two candidates split.

    Ryan, a Democrat, said he supports Hillary Clinton.

    Taraya, a Republican, said he wasn’t so sure about his party’s nominee.

    “I never endorsed Mr. Trump,” he said. “And I’m definitely not voting for Secretary Clinton.”

    “I might just have to do a Richard Pryor thing and vote none of the above,” he said.

    To watch the full 11-question interview of the candidates, visit theday.com/section/lunchdebates2016.

    m.shanahan@theday.com

    Candidates for the Connecticut House of Representatives 139th District seat, incumbent Democrat Kevin Ryan, right, and Republican challenger Joseph Mark C. Taraya, shake hands as they greet one another before taking questions during The Day's lunch with the candidates forum at The Day's office in New London on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. (Tim Cook/The Day)

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